Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: August 26, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr moved into an old, creepy house with the wife of an uber-famous movie star. But then she started hearing voices in the walls, so he bailed on that noise and found a new main squeeze. She turned out to be a full-blown psychotic assassin bent on revenge and blood.

The plus side is that she was the spitting image of Zoe Saldana, so Kevin thought it might be worth the risk. This, of course, did not end well, but he considered himself lucky because he didn’t have to sit through Our Idiot Brother. Oh, and apparently Transformers: The Dark of the Moon is returning to IMAX screens… but does anyone care about that at all?

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Marco Cerritos joins him in the Magical Studio in the Sky to chat about the new movies of the week.

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Studio: FilmDistrict

Rated: R for violence and terror

Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Alan Dale, Bailee Madison and Jack Thompson

Directed by: Troy Nixey

What it’s about: This remake of a 1973 television film (which originally starred Dabney Coleman, no less) follows a young girl who moves to Rhode Island to live in a super spooky house with her father and his new girlfriend. When they discover a hidden basement to the home, the girl encounters an army of sinister creatures that live in the walls. Of course, no one believes her, even when the scary little buggers target her for their next victim.

What I liked: For as much as everyone has been whining and moaning about the last two years being nothing but reboot, remakes and sequels, I think 2011 has had more than its fair share of neat films. Even though Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is technically a remake, it’s hardly mined from widespread popular culture. Honestly, how many people out there were even aware of the original before Guillermo del Toro announced he would be bringing a new version to the theaters?

This movie is what a remake should be. It pays homage to the original film by using the plot points and elements that made it compelling, but it stripped away all the goofy 70s-era made-for-TV problems. What’s left is a deliciously disturbing story that is almost believable beyond your two hours spent in the movie theater.

Aside from the little troll-like creatures, the star of this film is Bailee Madison, who plays the little girl. She carries the film and exudes real sympathy. It’s not a terribly original or complex role, but she does a lot with her scenes. For the most part, the film is told from her point of view, letting us worry with her whether the adults are ever going to believe her.

There are some bloody moments in the movie, but it’s not something that a gorehound who loves the Saw franchise is going to enjoy. Instead, like this spring’s Insidious, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark relies on atmosphere, suspense and real tension to thrill the audience. And that’s a rare thing in horror movies nowadays.

What I didn’t: Is it too much of a cliche to complain about Katie Holmes at this point? I mean, she’s not at a level of pointlessness that she was in Batman Begins, but she really wasn’t a great fit for the film. She’s not a great actor, and she phones in her lines for the better part of the film. Her scenes with Guy Pearce (who phones in even more lines than Holmes does) fall flat and fizzle to the point that I found myself checking my watch during these moments. The bottom line is that when the kid isn’t in the picture, the movie loses its cohesion.

Sadly, Holmes doesn’t even look healthy. She has sunken eyes and a skeletal frame. Her crows feet are showing, which makes her look significantly less cute. Sigh… I suppose that’s what five years of marriage to Tom Cruise will do to you.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of suspense horror.

Grade: A-


Studio: TriStar

Rated: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, intense sequences of action, sexuality and brief strong language

Starring: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Max Martini, Jordi Mollà and Lennie James

Directed by: Olivier Megaton

What it’s about: Zoe Saldana plays a female assassin who is hunting the man who killed her family. After becoming the best in the field, she targets him by killing crime lords around the world. However, a new relationship and a determined FBI agent threaten to put her plans to an end.

What I liked: I enjoyed watching Zoe Saldana run around in her underwear and various other tight outfits. Sure, the girl could stand to eat a sandwich because she’s almost as skinny as Katie Holmes now, but she is still fun to look at for now.

What I didn’t: I understand that you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy an action movie, but Colombiana reaches a level of ludicrousness so early on that it’s impossible to watch it with a sober vision. Not only does it deliver a Birdemic level of continuity and logic, but it also delivers a similar take on basic physics, with Saldana’s character (who can’t weight more than 89 pound soaking wet) wrestles a man half her size to the ground.

The action, while exciting at times, can’t even mask the silliness of the situation. For example, in an early scene, Saldana’s character goes after a man under protective custody in a holding cell of a Bakersfield jail. Her plan seems flawless, with her having extensive knowledge of the police station’s architecture, duct work, security camera placement and even the fact the target is arriving a day early. However, it also relies on complete elements of chance like the fact no one would discover she had a magic wig that concealed 28 pounds of equipment, every air duct she climbed through would easily open and the guard would bring her a spoon with a cup of coffee.

But the characters are worse. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for Saldana’s character, but she’s a brutally damaged sociopath. Her relationship with a local artist is just sex – and I’m okay with that – but he acts like he really loves her. Plus, her adoptive family in Chicago are a bunch of thugs who kill people willy-nilly, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her.

I understand her character is supposed to be a sympathetic one who saw her parents murdered in front of her, but her father was a notorious criminal and hardly an innocent victim. More over, she crosses several lines of ethics that make her no better than the people she kills, and I just couldn’t get behind that.

Colombiana is a mess of a film that is no surprise to be dumped in late August with scant press screenings in many markets. It’s this year’s Bangkok Dangerous… without the Nicolas Cage mullet.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of crappy action movies twenty years from now who’ll see this as the 2011 equivalent of 1986’s Cobra.

Grade: D

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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